In Sickness and In Health

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If You're Sick


I’m home sick today. It doesn’t happen very often but the lest two weeks have seen me sicker than I have been in years. This is the third day of work I’ve missed since Christmas and that’s a lot for me. Like many former military folks I know I don’t like to give in to illness (I have been guilty of running while having bronchitis) so I have to be in bad shape before I’ll take a sick day. I’m not really sure what I have (it’s not the flu) so I’m going to see my doctor and get this knocked out once and for all.

How did I get this? Well, I’m glad you asked. I picked up this little bit of nastiness from my wife who, as far as we can tell, picked it up from her nail technician. Yes, her nail tech. She had her nails done right before Christmas and, when she started to get sick a couple of days later, related to me that her nail tech had been sick as well. “Wonderful”, I thought. “Why don’t people just stay home when they’re sick?”

When cold and flu season hits people complain about those who show up at work or school, coughing and sneezing, but have no qualms about sharing the wealth themselves. Why? There are several reasons:

1.) No time. There are a lot of people who working in jobs that don’t offer sick leave. How can you take time off to be sick if you don’t have it to begin with? Others offer sick leave but not very much; a friend of mine once worked in a job that accrued sick leave at the rate of one hour per month. 12 hours per year isn’t much and soon anyone in that position would be dipping into their vacation time. Some workers have even reported being penalized for taking sick leave. It’s illegal to punish workers for taking sick leave but we all know that it’s possible to do and very difficult to prove. Who wants to risk losing their job simply because they have a communicable disease?

2. ) No money. Closely related to the lack of sick leave is the lack of paid sick leave. In many jobs if you’re not there you’re not getting paid. This is a difficult situation for low-wage earners or small business owners whose livelihoods depend on their being at work every day. Keeping the bottom line healthy means working even when they’re not.

3. ) No support. For working parents, having a sick child can mean some tough choices. They can keep the child at home and deal with the work-related issues or send Junior to school or daycare and hope for the best. Schools and child-care centers are fast-breeding reactors for germs; sending sick kids into these environments virtually guarantees the spread of even the mildest colds.

Colds and flu can spread rapidly so think about that whenever you have one or  suspect that you do. Staying home from work or keeping a sick child home from school may not be the most palatable choice but think about your co-workers, your friends, your child’s teachers…do you really want to spread whatever you have around to them? They may be less than understanding of your reasons for placing them in jeopardy and much less than grateful to catch what you have. So bite the bullet and keep it to yourself. We’ll all thank you for it!


Life Isn’t Fair.

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Life isn't fair

One thing we hear often from people, especially from those aren’t getting what they want out of life, is that “life isn’t fair”. Of course it isn’t. Cheaters often win and winners often cheat. You won’t get that promotion you deserve. You can do everything right and something will still go wrong. That’s life.

What’s the point? The sooner you realize that life is inherently not fair the better off you will be. You will understand that bad things happen to good people and everyone has to do things that are unpleasant, inconvenient, and expensive (often at the same time). Many people spend their lives waiting for the things they think they deserve and, instead of finding new opportunities, make excuses for what was supposed to happen. Didn’t get that promotion because it went to the office brown-nose? Why not? Weren’t we told in school that if we worked hard and were a good person then good things would happen? Yes but the truth is that sometimes nothing will happen. You can complain that it wasn’t fair and get no where or you can accept that you didn’t get what you wanted, be honest about why, and then move on. 
Work hard but understand that you won’t always get what you give. Sometimes you’ll get more.
That’s life.

10 Quotes on Complacency




Complacency kills.

Really, it does. One thing I teach on a regular basis is electrical safety and a key lesson is that complacency is the enemy of safety.  When electrical workers feel secure performing tasks involving electrical equipment they become complacent. When they become complacent they tend to underestimate the risks they face and overestimate their own abilities. Believing themselves to be safe they actually place themselves in greater danger.

Businesses tend to do the same thing. Once a company is secure in its industry with good market share, profitability and growth it can become complacent, resting on its laurels and secure in the knowledge that its closest competitors are trailing far behind. Many business giants of the 20th Century never made it to the 21st. Secure in their Strengths, they overlooked the Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats in their environment. Their complacency led them to stay in their comfort zone long enough for their competitors to catch and overwhelm them.

Here are 10 of my favorite quotes (in no particular order) on the subject. I hope these bits of wisdom will help you avoid this bear trap!

1. “Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.”– Andy Grove

2.”I really try to put myself in uncomfortable situations. Complacency is my enemy.” — Trent Reznor

3. “Do not be afraid to make decisions; do not be afraid to make mistakes.” — Carly Fiorina

4. “You need to have a redesign because familiarity breeds a kind of complacency.” –Timothy White

5. “The biggest mistake to me is complacency.” — Bonnie Hammer

6. “We shall have no better conditions in the future if we are satisfied with all those which we have at present.”– Thomas Edison

7. “The great menace to the life of an industry is industrial self-complacency.” – Joyce Carol Oates

8. “It’s always good to be underestimated.” – Donald Trump (speaking of complacent competitors)

9. “We have a normal. As you move outside of your comfort zone, what was once the unknown and frightening becomes your new normal.” — Robin Sharma

10. “Change before you have to.” – Jack Welch


Now get out there and be uncomfortable!

Are You Making Goals for the New Year or Just Resolutions?

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It’s that time again, time to think about your New Year’s Resolution. You know, that “thing” you resolve to do on January 1 and have forgotten about by Valentine’s Day. Lose weight, work out more, spend more time with family…all these are noble goals. But are they really goals or merely non-binding suggestions for how we would like to live the next 365 days?

Resolutions, in and of themselves, are useless. When we consider that only 8% of Americans achieve their New Year’s goals they seem more like the non-binding resolutions. They’re statements about the condition of our lives and what we would like to do about it. Like the ones issued by Congress they don’t come with a plan to implement and accomplish them. They sound good but we don’t have to do anything. Our resolutions are not goals because they are not backed up by a plan and require no action.

So how do we create New Year’s Resolutions that are real, achievable goals?

The SMART method for goal setting is an easy way to outline your goals for the next year or whatever time frame you choose. It works like this:

1.) Specific. Goals must specify what you want to achieve. “I want to lose weight” is a good idea but it isn’t specific enough. How much weight do you want to lose? “I want to lose 45 pounds” is specific. Perhaps you want to fit into that dress or suit that you can no longer wear. Stating “I want to wear a Size 10 dress” or “I want to get back to a 36-inch waist” are specific and give you a target to shoot for. 

2.) Measurable. How will you measure your progress? If your goal is to run a marathon but you aren’t recording your distance and time how will you know what you need to do to meet that goal? For weight loss are you recording what you eat, weighing yourself regularly or trying on that dress? The heart of science is measurement and the science of goal setting is no different. Remember that what gets measured gets done.

3.) Achievable. “Anything the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve”. Bull. You may believe you can fly but jumping off a building will prove otherwise. Your goal has to be something realistic. I love football but a goal of playing in the NFL isn’t realistic. It will never happen and I’m okay with that. That’s why being a professional football player isn’t on my goal sheet. Winning the lottery isn’t on there, either, because it’s completely outside my control. Ensure that your goal is something that you can achieve. 

4.) Realistic. A goal must be something that you are able and willing to work for and it must lie outside your comfort zone. A goal that is too easily achieved isn’t realistic because it didn’t require much motivation or effort. “I want to lose 50 pounds” will require much more motivation than “I want to lose 2 pounds”. Stretch goals, as long as they are achievable are realistic because they require you to develop new skills and ability to reach them. 

5.) Timely. What’s your deadline for accomplishment? Vote yourself off “Someday Isle”. Doesn’t “I want to lose 50 pounds by the 4th of July” sound better than “I want to lose weight in 2014”? “I want to run in the Boston Marathon” is also timely since the race has a set date but what about qualifying races? Make sure that you set benchmarks along the way to ensure that you’re making progress. It’s also easier (and more encouraging) to get the small victories on the way to the big one.

A couple of tips for New Year’s Resolutions:

1. ) Keep them simple. A long list of goals may seem impressive at first but it will quickly become more intimidating than a short one. Competing priorities (as if we don’t have enough of those already) will quickly overwhelm all but the most determined goalsetter. 

2. ) Go public. Goals are easier to accomplish when others know what you’re up to. Just the fear of what friends and family will think if you fail can be enough to energize your efforts. Ironically, the fear of what others may think keeps us from making our goals known and may put a damper on our motivation. If you can’t expect a lot of support, or expect outright opposition, then more privacy may be an option. Do what’s right for you.

3.) Put them on paper. You need to read your goals at least twice per day to keep them fresh in your mind and to review your progress. It also helps you visualize your goals. If they’re not in writing, how are you supposed to do this? If you’re trusting your memory you’ll sabotage your progress and shortchange yourself.

Remember, you create goals with the desire to improve in some area: health, fitness, finances, education, or whatever else inspires you. Take December to plan so that you’ll be ready to go on January 1st. You owe it to yourself to make 2014 the best year ever so be SMART about your GOALS, create a PLAN for achieving them, and follow it up with ACTION!


Don’t BS Yourself…

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I’ve blogged about excuses and why we make them. In fact, I was trying to come up with a good blog topic for today and was thinking “Shoot, I don’t have any good ideas.” I had set a goal of writing a new post every day (this is the third time I’ve set this goal) and today I almost let the “Lack of a Good Idea Fairy” talk me out of it. After all, why write if you don’t have anything to write about? That was a question I asked many times in college, by the way.

This morning, as I was reading a blog in one of my favorite business magazines, my eye caught a glimpse of another post about excuses. Wow, I thought, this must be a popular subject these days.” Excuse-making is a popular subject if not a popular pastime. Heck, every time I read one of these posts I look to see if I’ve been credited with any of the material. I’m sure that I invented my share of them.

When we use statements such as “I’m not good enough”, “I’m too busy”, “It wasn’t meant to be”, “I’m never that lucky” or a myriad of others we’re really just copping out. If you’re not good enough, work on getting better. If you’re too busy, learn to manage your time better. If you don’t know, learn. If you’ve never done it before, do it now. Stop rationalizing. If you’re scared, say so. Do or do not.

Just stop making excuses.

Forget the Material World, We’re Living In A Stressed-Out One.

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We live with it every day. In fact, our society seems to be more stressed than ever. In fact, the American Psychological Association, in a 2012 study, reveals that 77% of those interviewed regularly experience physical symptoms cause by stress. 54% have had fights with close friends and family members as a result of stress. 33% said they live with extreme stress while 48% said that stress has had a negative impact on their lives, both personal and professional.

What’s happening here?

The world is so fast-paced that we seem to have lost the ability to slow down. A typical complaint by many people is that they don’t have enough time to fulfill all the demands of work and home. Have we lost the ability to live the life that we feel we were meant to live? Is life so full of the need to do that we no longer have time for the want to do?

Another problem seems to be that we are connected to everyone and everything these days. Social media sites make it possible to stay engaged (actively or passively) on a scale that wasn’t possible (or imaginable) just 20 years ago. Family, old friends, new friends…we can be a part of each other’s lives 24/7 thanks to the wonders of the internet. This electronic version of “keeping up with the Joneses” has its price. Increased use of the internet has been attributed to depression and, it seems, being connected to everyone on-line actually results in smaller social circles. Apparently being connected is causing us to lose our connections.

Being connected to the world through the internet and cable TV has increased our access to information and does so every day. What’s made known to us is increasing at an astounding rate. All this information is, arguably, too much information. We can’t process it all. Combine this with the abundance or bad news available from almost every source and we have an anxiety-inducing hailstorm of data. Perhaps ignorance is bliss, at least to some degree. Let me Google that.

Stress is a normal part of life and that’s okay. We shouldn’t feel as if we’re the only ones dealing with it because everyone is. Slow down. Disconnect. Read a book. Talk. The benefits will be dramatic.

And don’t Google that.



Be Still: Cleaning Toilets and the Experience of Self Discovery

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Epiphanies aren’t always a “bolt from the blue”. Sometimes it’s a voice in your ear quietly saying “Told you so.”

I received one of those today. I was reading a post in Forbes from one of my favorite business authors. She went on about the time she was able to serve the Dalai Lama by cleaning toilets.  At a spiritual retreat. For 12 hours a day. It was only two days but still…who cleans toilets at a spiritual retreat?

Her point was this: Be Still.

When you’re cleaning toilets you’re not exactly sedentary. You’re moving around a lot, especially when you have to clean a lot of toilets. And when you’re doing it by yourself you have no one to talk to. Spiritual exercises (cleaning toilets?) aren’t designed for team-building . They’re intended to get you to be still mentally, to reflect and perhaps lose some of the clutter that has built up in your life. Finding humility and solitude in cleaning toilets…what a concept. In my Navy days I had plenty of opportunities to reflect in toilets but I never thought about it like this.

This experience of cleaning toilets (by a very successful businesswoman) brought home a lesson that I had not fully learned (or even considered) until now. When I was inducted into the Order of the Arrow (that’s the BSA’s Honor Society) I had to complete what is called the “Ordeal”. The 2-day Ordeal requires an inductee to sleep on the ground (pine straw and a poncho liner are only so comfortable), perform service projects, receive little food, and maintain a vow of silence throughout. I never really thought about the “Why?” behind it. It’s introspection and self-revelation. It’s about finding the answer and if you’ll be still long enough, maybe even the question. 27 years later I’ve gotten the message: Be Still.

And that little voice said “Told you so.”

be still

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